It’s the oldest complaint in the world. At least as old as “God said to Abraham, ‘Kill me a son.’” And Abe, who God apparently thought wasn’t grateful enough for the world he’d been given, said “Man, you must be putting me on.” (Dylan 6:1) The real problem, of course, was that God wasn’t sure that Abe was willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get along in the world. “Young people these days,” the old deity might have been thinking of Abe, who was a hundred years old but still young enough to be siring a kid with his equally ancient wife, Sarah.
God eventually loosened up on that first millennial, Jesus – born around the year zero, after all – even saying he was well-pleased at one point. But in order to really live up to his father’s expectations, it’s worth noting, the dutiful thirty-something had to get himself nailed to a cross. Which proved, among other things, that it is theoretically possible to please your old man, but it’s not always easy.
Reflexive generational disdain isn’t strictly a Judeo-Christian phenomenon, either. The ancient Greek philosopher Xenophanes worried that “the young value sporting champions over teachers and moral leaders.” And Buddha, some traditions say, named his only son “Impediment.” Not “gift from God” or “beautiful swimmer” or “glistening lotus flower.” None of those. He named the kid “Impediment,” as in an inconvenient bump on dad’s personal road. Old Buddha didn’t even give little Impediment a chance to prove himself.
What does any of this have to do with the Vineyard, you ask? Not that much, I admit. But all this past summer, at work and at the beach and over perfectly chilled pink wine and exquisitely seared red-centered tuna, the peculiar work habits of “millennials” was a popular topic of consideration by various baby boomers and “Generation Jones” types. (Yes, that’s a real category: look it up and own it if you can!) No need to revisit the critique: it’s essentially the same as it’s ever been. And I’d be a hypocrite to suggest I’ve never indulged in the pleasures of peering over my reading glasses at a half-remembered, half-imagined rosier past. I recall quite fondly, for instance, those bygone days when I wasn’t nostalgic.
And what does this have to do with homes and gardens? Only this, I suppose: homes and gardens are where toasts are raised. So here’s to the young adults of today! May they live long enough to pay off their student loans and see an economy that produces interesting employment and a rising standard of living. May they figure out how to contain the climate change that their parents and grandparents conveniently ignored. May they get the plastic that they didn’t put in the ocean out of it, and end the wars they didn’t start. May they fix the air conditioning at Jimmy Seas.
And most of all, may they live long enough to take care of me when I’m too old
to rant and rave. Or at least invent an app to do it for them.